The Montreal fighter, who some have accused of ducking big fights, took care of business Friday night with a fifth-round knockout of quirky Russian Dmitry Sukhotsky to retain his World Boxing Council title and set up what could be much bigger bouts in 2015.
"I made a statement tonight that I can knock anybody out," the 37-year-old Stevenson said. "This guy's ranked 4th in the world. He's not an easy opponent. He's ranked. He'd never been knocked out and I knocked him out."
Stevenson (25-1) jabbed and poked at the cautious Sukhotsky (22-3) through four rounds before the southpaw floored him with a crushing left in the fifth. Another left had him down again and a third finished the fight at the 2:42 mark.
"At the start, it was tough because he has a bizarre style," said Stevenson. "But I used my jab, my movement and I stayed patient. I didn't force it. I knew I had the knockout punch, so I didn't have to rush."
It was a bout Stevenson was expected to win, but things may not be as easy in the new year.
The WBC ruled last week that Stevenson, if he kept the title, must make a mandatory defence against the winner of a bout March 14 in Montreal between Jean Pascal and Sergey (Krusher) Kovalev.
Pascal is the former WBC champion from Montreal, while Kovalev may be the only light heavyweight who can match Stevenson's power. Kovalev also holds the titles from the three other main sanctioning bodies, the WBA, the WBO and the IBF, thanks to a victory last month over veteran Bernard Hopkins.
Stevenson was supposed to fight Kovalev this year, but his plans changed when he hired manager Al Haymon, hoping to get the fight with Hopkins that eventually went to Kovalev.
That prompted accusations that he was ducking Kovalev. Pascal joined in the chorus when attempts to arrange a showdown with Stevenson also fell through.
"I don't have a problem," said Stevenson. "I'm the man. I'm the linear champion. They have to come to me. Just talk to (promoter) Yvon Michel and it'll happen. I'll take (all) the titles."
Michel said Stevenson will fight in early April to stay sharp for the bout with the Pascal-Kovalev winner later in the year. He hopes it will be against Andrzej Fonfara, who took Stevenson to 12 rounds in his last bout in May.
He said Stevenson hurt a hand ahead of that fight and wasn't at his best, and now wants another crack at knocking the Polish fighter out.
In another bout, Ionut (Jojo) Dan (34-2), a Romanian based in Montreal, pulled off a feat by winning a second split decision in the hometown of opponent Kevin Bizier (22-2) in a wild welterweight battle. Dan also won by split decision in November, 2013 in Quebec City.
The win gave Dan the top ranking in the IBF and made him mandatory challenger to British champion Kell Brook.
"I think it was a better fight than last year," said Dan, who is open to a third fight with Bizier but hopes to get a world title shot first. "Me and Bizier left our souls in the ring."
The crowd booed the decision. Bizier knocked Dan down with a right in the seventh, but Dan bounced back and consistently outscored the Quebec City fighter the rest of the way, opening a cut over his right eye.
Rising light heavyweight prospect Artur Beterbiev (7-0) visited the canvas for the first time at the end of the first round, then knocked down American Jeff Page Jr. (15-1) three times in the second to unify three continental titles.
Trainer Marc Ramsay said Beterbiev, a Montreal-based Russian, lost his balance on the knockdown and "there was no panic" as his fighter dropped Page with a straight right and then finished him with another right hand in the second.
American southpaw Andre Dirrell (24-1), on a comeback from a brain injury in 2010, took the No. 2 ranking in the IBF with a 12-round unanimous decision over hardheaded Derek Edwards (27-4-1). Dirrell hammered Edwards repeatedly with lefts, but couldn't knock him down or even make a noticeable mark on him. Stevenson knocked out Edwards in three rounds in 2011.
Former Canadian amateur champion Custio Clayton got a tougher opponent than expected in his pro debut, but the Dartmouth, N.S., boxer still dominated.
Clayton showed off his snapping jab and quick hands in a four-round light middleweight victory over Frenchman Sophyan Haoud.
Two judges gave him all four rounds while the third scored it 39-37, with Haoud having his best moments in the third.
Normally, boxers in their first pro fight are given easy opponents, but Haoud (3-3-1) showed he could take a punch and was on the attack from the opening bell.
"We didn't want to pick one that was too easy," said Clayton, who reached the quarter-finals at the 2012 Olympics in London. "I've been around for a while, and with my experience, I figured a nice tough fight for my first one would be good.
"He was a good fighter. Very tough."
Promoter Yvon Michel, who signed Clayton to a three-year contract in November, feels he was Canada's best amateur since Stevenson.
Another fighter who dominated in his pro debut was Montreal-based Russian super-bantamweight Vislan Dalkhaev, who showed an impressive jab while mauling 36-year-old Csaba Toth (13-25-1) of Hungary over four rounds.
Light middleweight Sebastien Bouchard (9-1) of Baie-St-Paul, Que., stopped Cedric Spera (11-3) of Belgium in six rounds.Suggest a correction